Today being Sunday, the post office wasn’t open, so I would have to overnight in town and pick up my resupply box tomorrow. From the Subway shop, I walked next door to the gas station/convenience store to purchase a can of mosquito repellent, a quart of milk, and a box of Chips Ahoy! cookies. For payment, I gave the clerk my Visa credit card, but just like the purchase at the Kennedy Meadows store, the card was again declined. I then gave the clerk my debit card, only to have it also declined.
“Not good,” I said to myself.
I had enough emergency cash to pay for my purchases, but not enough for a motel room, so I would have to camp out in the public campground, which was no big deal; it was just that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to recharge the batteries in my phones – cell and satellite, or the battery for my camera.
Before heading for the campground, which I passed coming into town, I sat at the table provided by the management of the Subway shop, to eat my cookies and milk, and to call the 800 number listed on the back of my credit card to find out what was going on with my cards.
The quick answer to the problem with my credit card was that the number had been stolen, probably in Mojave, and there were now fraudulent charges on the card. I cancelled the card and had a new one sent to my home in Salt Lake, and the next time I spoke with my wife, I asked her to include the new card with the resupply package that would arrive in Mammoth Lakes Resort in about ten days.
As for my debit card, the one I received from Wells Fargo just days before leaving for San Diego and the start of the hike, the nice lady on the Wells Fargo Customer Service hotline said, "It was a temporary card, only valid for thirty days. It would have been replaced by a permanent card sent to your home.” Well, thirty days had passed and the card had expired. Undoubtedly, the new card showed up at my house after I left for the trail, and because I never use one, my wife didn’t think to send it to me.
The 1924 Model T Ford Flatbed Truck
It was late afternoon, and I began my walk out of town back towards the public campground on the outskirts of town. On the way, I passed the outdoor storage lot of the Eastern California Museum that housed railroad memorabilia – engines, railcars, wooden buildings, and old farm implements – tractors, plows, hay rakes, etc. One item that was not like the others, and was definitely out of place, was the rusted hulk of an antique 1924 Model T Ford flatbed truck.
This caught my eye, and I had to hop the fence with the no-trespassing sign dangling from the top strand of the barbed wire, to have a closer look at it.
I’m a Model A man, having three 1930–1931 project cars in my shop at home. I was not particularly interested in Model Ts, but the sight of this forlorn entity sitting there in the dirt, under the shade of the Lombard tree, took my breath away. It really was a piece of junk, but I knew what loving care and determination could do for this old derelict relic of a bygone era.
Where most people see only rust, junk, and a bottomless money pit, I saw the potential, the rise of the Phoenix, and could fully envision this castaway looking exactly as it did in 1924 when it rolled off the assembly line, smelling of new paint, new rubber tires with wooden spokes, and new wood for the flatbed. I took a few pictures and resolved to speak with the museum director tomorrow morning before leaving town, to see what the chances were of the museum parting with the rust bucket.
It was only a few blocks to the campground and I found it deserted with the exception of an older model Ford pickup truck and a large fifth-wheel trailer. A stream that originated from the outflow of the lakes beyond the Onion Creek campground separated this campground into two sections. I crossed the stream on a small wooden bridge and camped by a picnic table next to the fifth-wheel trailer. I set up my tent, placed my backpack inside of it to keep the wind from blowing it over, then sat at the picnic table and finished eating my Chips Ahoy! Cookies.
While waiting for dark, I took the opportunity to wash my legs, feet, and socks in the stream, splashed water on my face and hair, and then dried the same with the green neckerchief I keep tied around my neck. While I was engaged in these activities, the owner of the Ford pickup truck got in his truck and drove away. Later, while I was sitting at the picnic table, he returned. As he was getting out of his truck carrying fast-food Styrofoam containers, I approached him and asked him if, in exchange for gas money, he would be willing to give me a lift back to the Onion Creek trailhead. He begged off, saying that his old truck just couldn’t make it that far up the canyon, but he would, if it were possible. I thanked him, and returned to my picnic table.
Still having daylight and nothing to do, I walked into town, taking the backstreets to get a look at the homes. I liked to see the architecture of the homes, and how people care for their property, whether it was neat and tidy or strewn with old cars, building material, and overgrown shrubbery. I found a combination of both. One older home that must have been gorgeous in its day, was so cluttered with junk and overgrown trees, bushes and weeds, that it was virtually impossible to see it at all.
It reminded me of some of the scenes I saw in eastern Kentucky on my bicycle ride across America.
In the Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky, the bike centennial route crossed into Virginia from the little town of Elkhorn City. For several miles prior to entering Elkhorn, I biked beside the Elkhorn Creek. Residents who lived along the creek used it as their personal trash dump, dumping everything from washing machines to refrigerators to tires and just everyday garbage down the stream bank. It was pathetic the way the locals treated this beautiful woodland creek. But all that changed the moment I crossed over into the state of Virginia. The same creeks and streams in the immediate vicinity of the Kentucky-Virginia state lines were free of the kind of trash and garbage that belonged in a landfill. I guess it was a matter of attitude and pride in one’s environment.
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